Saint Louis (22-5) at Rhode Island (5-23)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 25th, 2:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Ryan Center (7,657) -- Kingston, Rhode Island. Television: CBS Sports Regional. Home Record: SLU 14-1, URI 2-11. Away Record: SLU 5-4, URI 2-12. Neutral Record: SLU 3-0, URI 1-0. Conference Record: SLU 10-3, URI 2-11. Series Record: Series is tied, 5-5.
GAME NOTES: The Saint Louis Billikens takes aim at a share of first place in the Atlantic 10 Conference, as they pay a visit to the Rhode Island Rams today at the Ryan Center in Kingston.
Saint Louis made it six wins in a row last weekend, dominating Fordham at home in a 66-46 decision. The Billikens led by as many as 26 in the second half after overcoming a slow start with Cody Ellis providing a big lift off the bench in matching a career-best 20-point performance, including a 5-of-8 showing from long distance. Kwamain Mitchell had 16 points and seven rebounds while Mike McCall Jr. scored 11 points and handed out six assists as Saint Louis notched its ninth win in 10 games overall. The Billikens improved to 10-3 in the A-10, just a game behind Temple for first place with three games left in the regular season.
Rhode Island suffered its fifth straight defeat last weekend at St. Bonaventure, dropping an 81-61 decision. The Bonnies were allowed to shoot 50.0 percent from the floor with Andrew Nicholson pouring in 32 points and grabbing 13 rebounds -- both game-highs. The Rams were led by Mike Powell's 20 points, but shot just 33.9 percent from the field. The rest of URI's starters combined for a mere 10 points. Nikola Malesevic added 14 points off the bench as the Rams fell to 2-11 in A-10 play.
This is the lone scheduled meeting between these two programs this season with the series tied, 5-5. Rhode Island has won the last three meetings and notched its first-ever road win against the Billikens in sweeping last year's season series.
The Billikens get things done with an efficient if not flashy style of offense coupled with the conference's top defense. Saint Louis' offense yields only 69.1 points per game to rank in the bottom half of the league but shoots a crisp 45.7 percent from the field. Add in the A-10's best defense at a mere 56.1 ppg, and the Billikens own the best scoring margin in the conference at plus-12.9. SLU's field goal percentage defense (.405) stands fourth in the A-10. Brian Conklin is at the head of the Billiken offense, posting 13.9 ppg while also leading the team in field-goal percentage (.542). Mitchell and Ellis serve as the club's other double-digit scorers, checking in at 12.0 and 11.0 ppg, respectively. Both rely heavily on their long distance prowess, with Ellis' 60 triples on 40.0 percent shooting leading the way. Mitchell has knocked down 47 threes on 36.2-percent accuracy. Dwayne Evans chips in with a solid 7.2 ppg and team-leading 6.8 rebounds per game, while Conklin adds 5.1 boards to the mix. The Billikens are not a superior rebounding team by any stretch but do manage to post a positive margin (32.9-31.0).
The Rams' overall struggles are well noted with just five wins on the year and it begins and ends on defense. URI allows 76.1 ppg and an eye-popping 49.0 shooting percentage against -- both marks easily standing as the worst in league play and not far from the bottom nationally. The offense doesn't exactly wow you either but does feature a quarter of double-figure scorers led by sophomore Billy Baron's 13.4 ppg. Orion Outerbridge and Malesevic add 11.9 and 11.8 ppg, respectively, while Jonathan Holton chips in with a 10.0-point average. Both Holton and Outerbridge also slot in as dual rebounding threats, securing 7.9 and 6.7 boards per game, respectively. Overall, Rhode Island's offense has taken a hit in recent weeks, averaging 67.9 ppg and on only 39.8 percent shooting. The Rams do a nice job on the boards overall, though, holding a 37.2-34.8 advantage on average -- good for third in the A-10.
All signs point to a Billiken rout of the Rams here, putting them one step closer to securing the A-10's regular-season championship.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saint Louis 72, Rhode Island 58
02/25 10:37:12 ET